The Dog Did It
Was Adopting Our Rescue Dog a Mistake?
In the Beginning
Labor Day weekend of 2020 we adopted Athena, a German Shepherd and Beagle mix, from our local animal shelter. Seemingly shy and quiet, we happily brought her home. She soon proved to be more high strung than expected. Within a few weeks I was wondering if adopting this rescue dog was a mistake. That’s just me being honest.
As September turned to October and October to November and finally to December I was certain adopting a rescue dog had been a mistake, a huge one. She was putting me through it. Accidents in the house, waking up throughout the night, being overly-aggressive at ANY other dog, and aggressive towards anyone not in our house, and the crate or trying to just go to the grocery store without her tearing her crate apart…
Optimism and patience began to slide and I found myself slipping into some mild depression at the thought of being trapped by her neurotic and anxious behavior. Adopting this rescue dog had to be the biggest mistake we’d made. Right?
I felt like I’d had a baby that would never grow into independence. I was on high alert and could only relax when she went into her crate at night. I had all these ideas about 2021 and getting back into the world, finally having a social life, and maybe even working outside the home (I was at a company that was and had always been fully remote at the time).
I began disengaging and not wanting to be around her. Maybe if I managed to not get emotionally involved I’d be okay. (Hint: This isn’t a healthy solution for any living being.)
I knew this wasn’t the answer as I panicked at the idea that I was going to be the one at home alone when things returned to normal. I would never hurt her but I could feel her and I knew my withholding of affection was hurting her. I remember holing up in my office crying as I tried to figure out what to do and mourned the life I would certainly not have. I couldn’t even sit or let myself think without wondering about where she was and what she was doing with what. If you’ve ever had a toddler, you know what I mean.
Daycare! Yes. I took her to a local center to try it out. This was the answer! I didn’t get a call to rush back so I was ready to get the good news when I walked in after her four hour trial. I came in and they brought her out. The young man working the front desk professionally informed me that she wasn’t able to attend daycare there. She wasn’t a fit due to her anxiety and the fear she might act out against the other dogs because she was so afraid. I nodded as if I understood and quietly walked her to the car. I got her inside and cried all the way home.
Seeing The Light In the Darkness
When we’re in our own stress it’s hard to see the truth, the light, the answers in our face. It can even be hard to use the tools we do have. I can talk to animals. I realized I’d resisted talking to her about what needed to happen for this to work. For us to work. At the same time, I didn’t want to talk to her because she was the problem. My perception of that is exactly why I needed to do it.
The Dog Did It
I finally allowed myself to tune into her. I felt her pain. I saw her experiences at the hands of a prior owner. I understood why she acted like she did, why she hated being left alone, why she was like she was (besides the German Shepherd in her blood). The new insights into Athena made it hard to stay upset with her. She had so much love to give but she’d triggered the post partum depression and anxiety I’d experienced when my son came along. I’d tell you about the dreams that came with it, but I’ll spare you.
I finally talked to her. I let her know how I felt and what I needed to be okay. I also prayed for us to have peace. I did it because my mental and emotional health are important. Also, because if I’m the one to maintain the health of my home, which I am, I had to get it together.
Things started getting better. It wasn’t over night. Heck I have a hard time making lasting and meaningful change instantly (I say as I eat sweet potato pie while writing this). But…she stopped having “accidents” as frequently. She started at a home daycare giving me a day or two where I could do things like run errands and work without worry. I was able to take one of the gates down so she could go upstairs (still with limitations because this girl can’t resist a garbage can or my slippers (just mine).
She’s super sweet once you get to know her and I’m glad I gave us the chance for that. I know I’m at a better place than a year ago this time as I deal with having to find a new daycare place and boarding place. Our amazing home daycare provider is relocating at the end of this month and I’m not panicking. Instead I’m taking my time finding that right place where she’ll feel love and comfortable.
She’s come so far and her sense of peace is seen in her NOT destroying her crate when she has to stay there when we go out (nope we can’t trust her in this house free – at least not yet). But we don’t come back to what we used to come back to. I’m pretty sure as the woman of the house, my peace has impacted her peace. She felt my anxiety on top of what she came to us with. Perhaps I felt her anxiety on top of my own.
Keep Doing It
I know we’re still growing together and she’s still got stuff to learn but now we get along, she does ride-a-longs (even if she has been known to jump out a car window at my son’s school – resulting in chasing her down at 8 in the morning – but only after she stops to take a dump in the teacher’s garden. Yep. Athena.). She’s family though and I’m grateful she forced me to dig a little deeper into myself and recognize that sometimes the greatest gift we can give others and ourselves is the gift of understanding and empathy.
You got me Athena. Thank you.
If you were one of the many people to adopt a new pet into your family during Covid-19, you certainly aren’t alone. Maybe you aren’t a pet psychic but I’m sure your pet feels you and you probably feel them. Take the time to feel them, to try to understand them, and be patient with yourself and with them. Empathy goes a long way. So does prayer and the power of manifesting what you want through thought and intention. I needed and wanted peace and comfort in my home. It was a must. If you’ve got a new pet you are struggling with, don’t give up just yet.
Maybe I’ll talk about Tango, the 11 year old cat sometime.